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‘Fighting a war’: The bitter campaign for qualified teachers

“Children in a classroom – particularly the junior, middle years of high school – can be exceptionally cruel. If you’re not on top of it, it’s a hell of a life.”

During the strikes, Maribyrnong High School brought in teachers to run night classes for senior students and correspondence classes for all students. According to reporting from the time, many classes were unsupervised and some were supervised by mothers.

At Glenroy High School, where about half the teachers were on strike, reports state that students came to school every second day on a rotating basis.

There was anger that children’s education was jeopardised to improve the education of future students.

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The Maribyrnong parents committee called for the 24 striking teachers to be sacked, as a “last desperate measure”. One parent at Maribyrnong High School said of the strikers: “They are not fighting a cause. They are fighting a war.”

Maribyrnong High School teacher Joan Brogden said that “bitterness over the strikes had made 20 out of 70 matriculation students leave without completing their courses”.

Mrs Lee said while the strikers weren’t very well liked, they soldiered on for the principle.

“Nowadays we don’t ever question the fact that our teachers need to be qualified,” she said. “The teachers’ registration board goes on, to this day. It’s a good legacy, I think.”

While correspondence education is nothing new to Victorian students during the coronavirus pandemic, industrial disputes no longer cause major unrest. The last teacher strike in Victoria occurred during the Baillieu government in 2012.

The AEU is currently pushing for a 7 per cent annual pay rise, as well as significant cuts to face-to-face teaching hours and smaller class sizes, as the Andrews government seeks to drive down public sector wage rises.

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